Posts Tagged ‘Cycling’

New Saturday Routine

Saturday, August 3rd, 2013

Today was my first attempt at what I would like to be my new Saturday routine. I cycled out to the Assisi Animal Sanctuary, on the far side of Newtownards, walked a dog for a bit under an hour, and then cycled home again.

I went to Assisi for the first time on my birthday. I love dogs, and I loved having a dog when I was a teenager, but have to accept that my lifestyle isn’t ideal for having one – if I had a dog, they would spend a huge amount of time on their own while I’m at work, which wouldn’t be very fair. So instead I am participating in the Assisi dog-walking scheme. They have a place full of dogs that need walking, so they are keen for volunteers to come and walk them, on a Tuesday or Thursday evening, or Saturday or Sunday during the day. I walked a dog for the first time last Saturday, when I took Jacko out. Today I was out with Sox.

There’s a nice walk through the Whitespots Country Park, which is an old lead mine works just off the dual carriageway, and fortunately the dogs are well used to walking alongside the traffic. It’s probably good exercise for my ankle, as it’s got quite rough paths with a lot of ups and downs through the hills. And there are plenty of things for the dogs to sniff, so they love it.

The only problem with the whole idea is cycling to and from Newtownards, where the hilliness of the ride makes up for the fact that it’s not very far.
On the way out, you have to get up the hill at Dundonald, which is quite hard going. But on the way back, the hill out of Newtownards is murder. Not helped by the fact I was riding my mountain bike rather than my road bike. Nor by by wind which was not at my back. And definitely not helped by the fact that I had already cycled 20 miles, and walked 2!

But I hope I can make it work, at least while the weather is good, as it’s a nice way of combining a ride with doing something useful!

The bicycle quest

Friday, July 27th, 2012

I’ve been riding my bike to work for quite a while now. Ever since I started working for BT lots of years ago, I’ve walked to work. But last year I worked out that cycling wasn’t that scary, it got me into work a whole lot quicker, it’s kind of fun, and it’s a bit healthy.

So I have been riding my mountain bike into work. That bike is 6 or 7 years old,  it’s got over five and a half thousand miles on it, and it’s showing its age a bit. So I decided it was time to upgrade and get a new bike. Since my last bike cost me about 150 quid , I thought it wouldn’t be too difficult to improve on it.

But it’s been a tricky business. The one thing that I knew I wanted were disk brakes, since much of my cycling is done in the rain, and disk brakes should have a bit more stopping power since they are in the middle of the wheel and out of the puddles. So off I went looking at bikes. I quickly got a feel for how the components improve as you spend more money. And I quickly discovered that the disk brakes add a lot to the cost.

After a fair bit of looking around all the local bike shops, I very nearly bought a bike a couple of weeks ago, but it was a bit more expensive than I had expected, and to be honest I didn’t like the colour (dark red). When I went back 2 days later, the last one had been sold earlier that morning. So I have been back round the bike shops a few times, and spent a lot of time looking at them on the internet. I very nearly bought one online at the start  of the week, but I didn’t really want to buy one over the internet – I wanted to sit on it, and have a bit of a ride on it, and be able to take it back to the shop if bits fell off!

And finally today I found one I like, and put down a deposit on it. The picture isn’t of my actual bike, as I have to wait for a fresh delivery, but it’s the one I had a ride on to try it out.

So it’s a Specialized Hard Rock Sport (2013 edition no less), from McConvey Cycles just down the road.

I’m all pleased 🙂

Musical News

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Two pieces of musical news today, one from the radio, and one from my ipod.

On shuffle while I was out cycling today I heard “Over There” by Glenn Miller and his orchestra. You can imagine my surprise when I immediately recognised it as that curse of the airwaves, the Go Compare tune (and no, I am not putting a link to the go compare tune in my blog! Just turn on your tv, and leave it for a few minutes and you’ll find it yourself). So for anyone who has found themselves whistling or humming that tune accidentally, this is excellent news – it has a more civilised pedigree that you might expect, and your actually humming a Glenn Miller tune!

The other musical news is that the Beach Boys classic “Sloop John B” has become a marching tune on the twelfth! They played a clip of it on Talkback, and then Wendy Austin helpfully explained that this was not simply a marching band expanding their repertoire in an unusual direction, but was in fact deeply offensive. I was hugely disappointed, as I would have liked to hear them tackle Good Vibrations or Barbara Ann (though of course flute bands always suffer from not having enough bass which wouldn’t help in the harmonies). I was hoping the story behind this would be that the Beach Boys had accidentally picked a folk tune which also had loyalist lyrics, but it turns out not to be the case. Apparently the Beach Boys did get there first, and then someone did a re-write on their lyrics. If you don’t believe me, you can hear it here.
Such a shame.

In other non-musical news, the weather has been unexpectedly good, and I got to cycle yesterday and today. Today I made it to the International Airport and back, which was a stupid idea, and I was knackered long before home. But on the bright side I did get to stop for Maud’s ice cream in Templepatrick, which was just what I needed. And another stop at the Indian takeaway down the street to refuel when I got home. 40 miles – a good afternoon out!

Cycling in Tenerife

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Went cycling again today, my third day with my hired mountain bike. There are 2 problems with cycling in Tenerife; well the south of the island anyway. The first is that the island is just one big volcano, with a peak in the middle (and crater) which slopes down to the sea. And no, it hasn’t erupted in a long time. It’s safe, thanks for asking. The second problem is that the one big volcano is surrounded by lots of smaller cones. So it’s just mountains and hills everywhere. If you start at a beach resort, i.e. at sea level, then pretty much every direction except along the coast involves going up.
Today I cycled to Arona, which is only something like 7 miles away, but it was literally 7 miles uphill all the way there, and then 7 miles downhill all the way back. The freewheeling down was fantastic, but the uphill was a slow hot grind. But I didn’t melt, and neither did the bike, but I’ll not be doing it again tomorrow.
Oh and by the way, the bike is a Specialised. It’s got great big balloon tyres like a moon buggy, and quite dodgy gears, but it’s not bad.

On the 12th

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

As it was such a nice day, I went out cycling today. Decided to go through the park I found before, with the great bridges. And here they are:

That’s my bike there on the right for scale. It looks quite small. Obviously enough, you can easily walk under the crossbar.

To get there, I made a left turn on the way into Jordanstown, and it took me into what google maps says is Glen Park. It’s a nice little park, quite forested, with a river running through it (not unlike Cregagh Glen). But suddenly you come on these bridges – the old stone one with that cool ironwork, then the 2 newer ones in white concrete immediately behind with their pleasing modern arches. It’s very striking, and my phone hasn’t captured it terribly well, but it’s a nice spot.

From there, I carried on through the park, and then out of Monkstown. On the spur of the moment, decided to visit Knockagh Monument, a big stone obelisk that looks down from the hills over Jordanstown comemmorating the men of Antrim that died in the wars. There’s a lot of uphill to get there, which ended up a bit of a struggle, but the view is spectacular, and the monument worth a look.

And that’s where I went today!

Cycling in Tokyo

Friday, March 18th, 2011

I went out for a cycle today, on what is presumably a fairly typical Japanese city bike. It was interesting.

Here’s the bike:

Yes, it has a basket on the front, and it’s not what I am used to riding. But just bear with me – it has some interesting features.

The enlarged hub in the front wheel obviously contains some kind of dynamo, which is wired to the light. So as soon as you start peddling in the shady garage, the light starts flashing. It’s a nice feature. I’m not sure if the light continued to flash when we were outside in the sun or not. But it’s still nice.

This is the back wheel. Again, there is an enlarged hub. Again, there’s something clever going on inside there, as the bike has three gears, but there is only one drive cog, and only one cog here at the back wheel too. So there’s some kind of clever linkage inside the hub between the cog you can see and the wheel. But I have no idea how it works.

And this is the built in lock. Just slide the blue lever to lock and unlock, as long as the key is in. Admittedly, you can’t lock the bike to anything, but the back wheel sure won’t turn. I also discovered there’s a link between this lock and the front wheel, which locks the steering to straight-ahead, or turned, which is pretty clever.

The downside to all this trickery (well, apart from the basket, which is a major downer), is that the bike is really heavy. Heavy as if it were made from depleted uranium. But at least it’s got some interesting gadgets.

Very Japanese!

Another day on holiday

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Today I went out cycling with a group from the local bike shop. The rest of the group all looked a whole lot more professional than me, and it turned out they were. But not quite all of them. I ended up third from last most of the time, which I was happy enough with. Just happy not to be last! In my defence, myself and second last were the only ones riding the shop’s cheaper alloy road bikes, while all the others were riding flashy carbon jobs.

But unfortunately I forgot to start runkeeper, so I have no track of it. And the bike computer was set for the wrong wheel size, so I didn’t even have that. But from the other guys, we did 52 miles, in 3 and a quarter hours.

I then took some advice, and had a dip in the hotel pool.

And then ignored the rest of the advice, and spent the afternoon lying on a sun bed and reading Stieg Larsson’s “The girl who played with fire”, the sequel to the famous “The girl with the dragon tattoo”. It’s quite a read, as I finished it in 2 days. I’m not sure it’s just as good as the first one mind you. My major disappointment is the character of Ronald Niemann, who seems like a James Bond villain unexpectedly dropped into the wrong book. Maybe I am being picky, but I thought that this character kind of cheapened the book. But having said that, I enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to reading the next one, and I suppose that’s the best sign of a good book. 

Holiday Stuff – Cycling

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

I had a good holiday for cycling. One of the local bike hire shops was doing basic mountain bikes for 3 days for 25 Euros, which seemed like a good deal to me.

So on my first day with my bike, I cycled along the coastal path down to Papagayo, the beach at the left end of the resort. It was trickier than I expected, since I ran out of path, and then ran out of road and had to go cross-country. Then that got decidedly steep, so I ended up back-tracking my way back onto the road again, to make a longer but safer way down to the beach.

Once I got to the beach, I realised I didn’t actually have any beach stuff with me admired the view, then turning around and cycling off.

The next day, I cycled the coastal path in the opposite direction, to the other end of the resort, where the lighthouse was. My poor bike is almost invisible beside the lighthouse, but it is there, chained to the gate. That day I also cycled to the bottom of the local volcano, locked the bike to a gate, and then climbed the volcano. Maybe more on that some other day. It was a quite awesome volcano. Though I was quite surprised to find that my resort was equipped with a  volcano.

On the third and final day of my hire, I decided to push the boat out, and go for a proper cycle. I think it was probably about 30 or 40 kms, out of town, then along the coast, finishing up at El Golfo. Lanzarote is a volanic island, and it’s an amazing place to cycle through – parts of it are just so desolate – nothing but lifeless looking black rock for miles. I know that probably sounds quite dull, but it’s so unusual that it’s very interesting. Especially at the sea, where the black of the rock contrasts with the blue of the sea.

So, having enjoyed that cycle, I went back to the bike shop a few days later, and hired a road bike, to  do a bit more cycling. This is where the troubles began, naturally. The picture shows the nice Bianchi road bike just outside Puerto Del Carmen, which is a couple of resorts along from where I was staying. What you can’t tell from this picture is that the chain had come off twice by this point. It came off again before I stopped to look at it, and found that one of the links was coming apart. Fortunately, I found another bike place in Puerto Del Carmen, and he tried to fix the link so it looked less like it would come apart. But that didn’t work, and although I nearly made it home, the chain fell apart on me. Fortunately, I was only about 7 km from home by that point. Even better, when I rung the bike shop, they said they would come and pick me up. By pushing the seat down, I was able to Fred-Flinstone the bike another km or two (mostly downhill) by the time he picked me up. He said he’d never had anyone break a chain before. Worse still, he said he’d only put a new chain on the bike 2 weeks before. But it couldn’t possibly have been my fault!!

But anyway, I enjoyed my holiday cycling!

So that’s why it’s called a road bike

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

I went out on my bike on Monday evening, and managed to fall off, embarrassingly.

So when I went out today for a nice cycle (Lisburn and back, 25 miles), I was a little more wary, and paid a bit more attention to what I was doing. And so now I think I understand what went wrong. Like a teenager going too fast in a sports car on twisty country roads, my new road bike is a bit too fast for twisty pedestrian paths.

This conclusion came as a bit of a surprise to me, I have to admit. But it turns out that my road bike can go from nought to quite fast for a bike without me having to try very hard. So I was simply going too fast to turn the corner when I came off on Monday. This never happened before on my mountain bike, because it took more effort to reach a decent speed.

So it’s much easier to ride on a road, and I guess that’s why it’s called a road bike.

Adventures with nature

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

It was a beautiful day again today, so off I went again on my bike. Not going for any dramatic distance or speed, but just to do something outside.
My cycle was going very well until I was unexpectedly bombed by a bird. I didn’t see the varmint, so I don’t know if it was a precision strike from a great height, or whether he come in low and took time to aim.
But in any case, it hardly matters. I got bird crap on my bare leg. Any time this has happened before, it’s usually been on a good suit, or my nice coat. When it’s on your bare skin it’s even worse – you can actually feel the heat of the birds body still in it. Or maybe it was just burning my skin. Or maybe even my imagination. But it felt real.
Worse still I was going quite a good speed along a road, so I couldn’t even clean it off until I could get pulled in somewhere safely.
So cyclists – be careful out there! It’s not just the drivers that are out to get you!